The Week in Review #18: Seneca on Gratefulness

After listening to a podcast with Ryan Holiday and Tim Ferriss earlier this year, I started reading some books on Stoicism. Currently I am reading “Letters from a Stoic” by Seneca. It has been a fascinating read. I have never highlighted and bookmarked a book as much as this one. Yesterday I came across a passage which really resonated with me. This particular letter was on gratefulness and it’s importance in our daily lives. My favorite passage is reproduces below.

“The ungrateful man tortures and torments himself; he hates the gifts which he has accepted, because he must make a return for them, and he tries to belittle their value, but he really enlarges and exaggerates the injuries which he has received. And what is more wretched than a man who forgets his benefits and clings to his injuries?

Wisdom, on the other hand, lends grace to every benefit, and of her own free will commends it to her own favour, and delights her soul by continued recollection thereof. Evil men have but one pleasure in benefits, and a very short-lived pleasure at that; it lasts only while they are receiving them. But the wise man derives therefrom an abiding and eternal joy. For he takes delight not so much in receiving the gift as in having received it; and this joy never perishes; it abides with him always. He despises the wrongs done him; he forgets them, not accidentally, but voluntarily.

He does not put a wrong construction upon everything, or seek for someone who he may hold responsible for each happening; he rather ascribes even the sins of men to chance. He will not misinterpret a word or a look; he makes light of all mishaps by interpreting them in a generous way. He does not remember an injury rather than a service. As far as possible, he lets his memory rests upon the earlier and the better deed, never changing his attitude towards those who have deserved well of him.”

…Be Like Dave This week the CEO of Survey Monkey passed away tragically. There was an out pour of posts about David Goldberg and the life he led. I enjoyed reading this piece by Bill Gurley. It also fits into the theme of this week’s post on paying attention to the type of life we lead and what we want to leave behind. Far too often we overlook the long term and focus on the short term. Our interactions, character and contributions to society is what we are going to be remembered by.

To Invent the Future, You Must Understand the Past This was a long but fascinating read. If you are interested in the birth of Silicon Valley this article has it all. It also has some great insights into pattern matching and what is needed to truly understand how to build a successful company.

Ten things I learned studying ten of the world’s fastest growing startups Growth is an integral part of the success of any business. This article provides a great summary of the tactics and strategies employed by the fastest growing companies in the world. My favorite lesson was “Don’t try to boil the ocean”. Picking a niche and dominating it before growing into other segments is key.

Well, We Failed. Startup failure post mortems are very valuable reads for entrepreneurs. They provide insight of what worked and specifically what didn’t. This helps us to refocus our efforts and pay attention the small things that may snowball. The founder put together a gorgeous pitch deck for his startup be sure to check it out.

Valuation As A Scorecard In a world where 17 startups can raise a combined $1,401,700,000 in one day, valuations seem to be what everyone talks about. Fred Wilson writes a superb post that puts this number into context. If you are an entrepreneur and you are not subscribed to AVC you should subscribe today!

Forget About Setting Goals. Focus on This Instead. I recently resubscribed to posts by James Clear. He does a great job of churning out quality content every week. Would definitely recommend his blog. This post was a great read and to an extent summarizes the main point that Scott Adams makes in his book “How to fail at everything and still Win Big”. In summary it isn’t about setting goals, rather it is the systems that we need to put into place that get us where we want to go.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

The Week in Review #9: From Dead-End Job to Uber Billionaire

I picked up a pretty awesome book this weekend after reading through Ryan Holidays’ book “The Obstacle is the way“, it was Meditations by Marcus Aurelius. I have thoroughly enjoyed it so far and would definitely recommend it, especially to entrepreneurs reading this blog. The article of the week was an old one which resurfaced this week about the co-founder of Uber and how he hustled his way to join the company in it’s early days.

From Dead-End Job to Uber Billionaire: Meet Ryan Graves The biggest takeaway is that we have to choose ourselves if we want to truly want to live our life. We do this by using our skills to solve large problems that exist in the world today. It is at that intersection that we will find out purpose and true calling.

Ways to think about market size Great article on how think about the size of the market your business is planning to operate in. The best quote from the article was “Everyone likes to quotes the Wayne Gretzy line that he was skating to where the puck was going to be, not where it was, but Apple and Google didn’t do that – they changed what the game was.”

The Most Important Equations in Business (Part 1): Customer Acquisition How much does it cost a business to acquire a customer and how much money does the business make on that customer; these are the two questions that drive your business. This article goes into great length talking about these two questions with lots of great examples.

How Successful Remote Teams Evaluate Employees The concept of a physical office is slowly fading into the past. Companies are looking for ways on how to attract and recruit talent from all around the world today. This articles discusses strategies of how companies are addressing this shift.

7 Awesome Talent / Recruitment Hacks This is definitely a slightly technical post on how to recruit developers. I found these hacks to be very innovative and highlights how recruiting and sourcing is rapidly changing.

How I launched the #2 most upvoted product of all time on Product Hunt Product Hunt is one of the websites that I visit daily. It provides a dose of inspiration with all the awesome products that are launched everyday. This post provides a detailed analysis on how one founder really worked hard to get his startup to the top of the list. The big takeaway, have a clear goal, work hard and good things will happen.

What’s your GMT – The next goal, milestone and task? In a world where we are drowning in todo lists and a never ending stream of decisions to make, this article talks about a great framework to make sense of it all. By focusing our efforts on the clear next steps, we reduce noise and increase our ability to focus & get things done.

Wishing everyone a great week ahead!

Being Productive vs Being Busy

In a world where we are constantly “connected” and always have something to do, we can very easily confuse being productive vs being busy. Like most vices, short term impacts are often never felt and we only get to see how far behind we are on our ‘actual’ tasks after a couple of weeks or sometimes even months. This is a problem faced by almost everyone at some point in life. In fact, statistics show that more than 77% of people are disengaged with the work they do every day. I received a piece of advice that has helped me greatly in overcoming this problem, it was, to systematically break down my goals into achievable chunks. Listed below are some steps to get started:

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Overcoming the Execution Gap

With the new year in full swing, many of us may have set goals towards what we aspire to achieve in 2013. However, there is a big difference between setting goals and achieving them. Essentially the execution gap in the middle is where many fall. In 2013 you may want to become healthier, boost your business forward or write the book that you have always wanted to. These are good goals to work towards but in order to be truly committed about this we need to over come the execution gap.

Here are three steps to get you started:

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Is Making Money the Ultimate Validation?

Recently I had an interesting conversation with someone who took the stance that, making money was the only sign that you are creating any value in the world. From his perspective making something that had perceived monetary value meant that you had created something worth while. On a very superficial level, I believe this argument has some basis, however, it has some very serious flaws. While I agree that making money does prove that your work has some value and the amounts of monetary exchange is an indicator of this, I do believe that this line of thought is extremely myopic and is a blinkered reflection of the workings in the industrial era where you did a certain job solely for and in exchange for compensation.

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Looking Back at 2012

As I sit down to write this post I really can’t believe that 2012 is over. These last couple of years, time seems to be accelerating at a quantum pace where it is becoming difficult to keep track of all the things which again seem to be taking place almost all at once! I remember quite vividly this year starting off with us closing one of our biggest deals with British American Tobacco, we have been fortunate to have just built our pace from there. For this review I am going to take a different approach and document all that went well and the areas which need improvement in the coming year.

The Things That Worked out Well:

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Building an Advisory Board

Since becoming part of the Founder Institute I have been really fortunate to have met and interacted with some of the best, smartest and knowledgable entrepreneurs I have ever had the good fortune to meet. We have been advised to put together a formal advisory board to assist us in our journey to reach product/market fit. I have always been a big fan of having mentors, mentors are vital to give advice and help keep your business from making expensive and avoidable mistakes. Building an advisory board however, needs to be given a lot of thought and is not another line item on your to-do list. Some advice I am following and steps I am taking are:

1. Recruit advisors with specific objectives: You need to research and spend a considerable amount of time up front to determine critical objectives that need achieving early in your venture. To accelerate reaching these milestones, search for advisors who have specific domain knowledge in specific areas and who will act as catalysts. This provides the advisor with a specific area to concentrate on and will be mutually beneficial.

2. Compensation: Advisors are usually given anywhere between 0.25% to 5% equity stakes depending on their involvement and stature. On the flip side, some advisors may not be interested in equity and a prior agreement about a small settlement in cash or a deferred payment plan can be established. Some advisors do not expect anything and for such a situation, you should be the one picking up the cheque during meals and showing gestures of gratitude for the time the advisor spends with you.

3. Small Groups: It is best to keep your roster of advisors limited to a group of 3. There are several reasons for this; for example, when organizing a communal meeting it is usually challenging to manage a larger size group due to calendar conflicts etc. Too many advisors could result in “too much advice” which could in turn paralyze you, instead of helping you to move forward.

4. Legal Agreements: When taking someone on as a formal advisor, it is best to get your law firm to draft an agreement. It is suggested that formal advisory role positions be kept to a maximum of 2 years, after which they could be renewed. This gives the entrepreneur a way out if things are not working well. If equity is involved, be sure to vest it over the period of the agreement and lastly, if required, get the advisor to sign an NDA if you think he/she may be interacting with other companies where there might be a conflict of interest.

Will keep everyone updated on how I go about structuring this process, will also post the specifics when completed.